Spring Training offically opens

There wasn’t a whole lot of activity on Day 1 of the Spring Training but that’s to be expected. The purpose of the first day doesn’t really have anything to do with baseball at all — at least not the on-field component of it. All of the Blue Jays pitchers and catchers went through their physicals and by the sounds of it everything went as expected.

The physicals took place in Tampa, which meant only a handful of players were seen at the club’s stadium in nearby Dunedin. R.A. Dickey was one of those guys and he went through a light game of catch while several other players including closer Casey Janssen were working out but for the most part Spring Training doesn’t really get underway tomorrow.

That’s when more news will start to trickle in but free agent addition Dioner Navarro was one of those who talked to the media today and here’s what he had to say about getting another opportunity to become a full-time catcher:

Have you ever caught a knuckleball?
“Never, it’s a challenge that I’m looking forward to. It should be fun, it should be exciting. We’ll just see what happens. I’m definitely going to catch him, he’s a big part of what this organization is trying to accomplish. I consider myself a big part too so I look forward to catching him and seeing how things turn out.”

Did you ever face him?
“I think I faced him a few times from the right side. I don’t even remember the outcomes but it’s going to be another challenge in my career and I’m looking forward to it.”

On becoming a No. 1 catcher again…
“It’s been a rollercoaster for my career. I hit a bump in the last few years, the last few years I’ve tried to prove, to show, that I’m capable of doing this. I’m just excited and really fortunate and grateful, appreciate, the organization giving me this opportunity and I’m going to work my butt off and do what they expect me to do.”

On getting familiar with the pitchers…
“I’ve watched a lot of tape. I caught A.J. (?) … It’s a long season so I tried to stay away from baseball as long as I could. I have two boys, a family too, having boys is hard to stay away from baseball. I’ve been catching since my season my was over, their season started, it’s a long season, we’re going to have a long time here in Spring Training to get to know every single one. I have a good feeling about this, I think the chemistry of the team is going to become a lot better and we’re just looking forward. I know there were a lot of expectations last year and things didn’t go their way, stuff happens, but it’s a new year, a new beginning for a lot of people, including myself and it’s really exciting.”

On his turnaround with the bat in 2013…
“Last two years, ’12 and ’13, I worked out with Joey Votto in Bradenton. I don’t attribute everything to that but I think the more you play the better you get, experience. I got to know my body a little better, I put myself in a stronger position with health, the long season. I did a little better job with myself, trying to do what I know I’m capable of doing. Taking the walks when you have to take them, swinging at good pitches, putting yourself in a good hitter’s count and I think that was the biggest key for me to produce the way I did last year.”

On what it was like working with Votto…
“MVP. He doesn’t stop talking about hitting, although this year he worked on his defense a lot. He loves the game, knows the game, wants to be the best at everything he does and I think if you approach the game that way, good things are going to happen to you. That’s how I approached it the last two years, picking his brain a little, talking to the hitting coach that we have, and I’m just putting myself in a better position to succeed.”

On changes to his conditioning…
“When you get older, you don’t get faster or stronger. You get slower and weaker. A lot of body stuff, staying away from heavy weights, which I think, personally, will catch up to you later in the year. Stuff here and there, better nutrition, staying away from the sodas and the coffee, it’s kind of hard but I’ve played my whole career between 190 pounds to 230, which I’m at right now. I feel the best the last two years playing between 225 and 230. I tend to lose weight during the season.”

What weight did you finish at last year?
“Last year I started at 230 and I finished at 222. But I didn’t play everyday. The last few years I haven’t played everyday. Now I have this opportunity to play everyday. I know there’s a lot of doubt, I don’t really care. I know what I have to do.”

You think there’s a lot of doubt?
“I know there’s a lot of doubt. Which is good for me, I love the challenge. I don’t like to use the term proving people wrong because I don’t have to prove anything but to myself and to the organization. Like I said before, I’m really happy and grateful that they gave me this opportunity and I look forward to the challenge.”

On previously being a part-time player…
“It wasn’t fun, that’s for sure. It wasn’t what I expected to happen in my career but at the same time I’m kind of happy it happened. I got a wake-up call if you can call it that, I kind of realized where I was at that point and where I wanted to be. I think the last two years speak for themselves and I’m here because I have a new opportunity, I had a rebirth like I call it, and I’m trying to take advantage of every opportunity I get. That’s the way I see it and that’s the way I’ve been for the last few years.”

Wondering if you’d ever get this type of opportunity again?
“It crosses your mind I guess. There are a lot of good players out there. I was an ’08 All-Star and in 2010 I was playing Triple-A ball. But I worked my butt off and I’m excited and looking forward to this opportunity.”

A lot of catchers who have revived their careers… 
“I think the more you play, the better you get, more experience. I think as a catcher, the way I see it, you’re going to make your living with what you do behind the plate. Obviously, you’ll make a lot more money if you do well at the plate. Jose Molina, has been a good defensive catcher his whole career, and I think all of the things that kept me in the big leagues was my defense. I take pride in that, I work hard on that. I’m just excited and the more experience you get the better is it. When you come to a new team, you bring your experience, you bring your knowledge, you bring what you’ve learned through that journey. Some times it works to your advantage, sometimes it works against you, and I guess for me it worked in my advantage.”

FA choices…
“They were aggressive early and the role, I just wanted to play man. I want to become a much much better player than what I am right now. I felt like this was the opportunity, this was the organization. We have a great team and now we have to put it together.”

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